Tuesday, April 7, 2009

John Lodge - Natural Avenue

John Lodge was born in Birmingham, England and attended school at Birches Green Junior School, Central Grammar School and later went to college at the Birmingham College of Advanced Technology for engineering. His early influences were musicians like Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, and by age 15 met up with future band-mate Ray Thomas.

Lodge's prolific songwriting for the Moody Blues has created such songs as "Ride My See-Saw", "Eyes of a Child", "Send Me No Wine", "Candle of Life", "Minstrel's Song", "Emily's Song", "Isn't Life Strange" (which earned Lodge an ASCAP songwriting award), "I'm Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)" (which also won him an ASCAP songwriting award), "Steppin' In a Slide Zone", "Talking Out of Turn", "Sitting at the Wheel", "Lean on Me (Tonight)" and "Gemini Dream" — the latter being a co-composition with Justin Hayward that won them jointly an ASCAP songwriting award. Bass Player magazine voted him amongst the most influential bass players.

He also collaborated with fellow Moody Blues member Justin Hayward on the 1975 album Blue Jays, and released a solo album, Natural Avenue, in 1977. During the 1970s, he produced the band Trapeze.

Through most of his career he played a Fender Precision Bass. For the last several years he has been playing a Fender Jazz Bass. Other instruments include a custom-made Fender double-neck bass and guitar (which replaced a similar model by Rickenbacker), acoustic bass and acoustic 12-string by Guild.

In 1985, the Moody Blues picked up the Ivor Novello Award for Outstanding Contribution to Music.
Lodge in 2007 in Walker, Minnesota at the Moondance Jam

Lodge has been married to his first and only wife, Kristen, since 1968, and they are the parents of two grown children. Their first child, a daughter named Emily, was born in 1970, and son Kristian was born two years later. Kristian is married to Elizabeth. Although he is a private man, Lodge has spoken on several occasions about his Christian beliefs, and credits his faith with keeping him from the dangerous pitfalls and excesses to be found in the often dark world of rock and roll.

Track List

Side One

1. "Intro to Children of Rock 'n Roll" (John Lodge) - 1:04
2. "Natural Avenue" (John Lodge) - 3:56
3. "Summer Breeze" (John Lodge) - 5:22
4. "Carry Me" (John Lodge) - 5:42
5. "Who Could Change" (John Lodge) - 6:04

Side 2

1. "Broken Dreams, Hard Road" (John Lodge) - 4:33
2. "Piece Of My Heart" (John Lodge) - 3:56
3. "Rainbow" (John Lodge) - 3:53
4. "Say You Love Me" (John Lodge) - 6:25
5. "Children Of Rock 'n Roll" (John Lodge) - 4:31

The following review was posted on amazon, and surprisingly was one of only a few positive ones

Writing this review of 'Natural Avenue' is both easy and difficult for me. It's easy because I love John Lodge's music and want others to know what
a great talent this man is. At the same time, it's also difficult because I want to be as objective as possible. That can be almost impossible to achieve
when you're a die-hard John Lodge fan, like I am. I will try to side-step my bias and give as honest an assessment as I possibly can.

I must say John's only (sadly so) solo effort is a terrific piece of work that deserves- and needs- to be heard by a wider audience. While all the songs on Natural Avenue are very good, I will freely admit that there were a couple that didn't really "touch me" as well as the others did. The main reason being that there are two outstanding songs on this Album that are so vastly superior, the other perfectly good songs get lost in their giant shadow. But there were honestly no songs that I like to call "skipper-overs", either. Contrary to what some other reviewers have said, John's light, airy, almost ethereal voice is in fine form and didn't sound like he'd "blown it out" at all- quite the opposite, in fact. I can't see how these nice folks listened to the same album as I did and drew that conclusion.On several of the songs, John's voice is very strong, clear, and spot-on perfect. John also shows some great vocal range, in utilizing a lower register that I had never heard from him before. I'll admit that on a couple of tunes, John didn't get into nearly enough "falsetto mode" for my taste, as I so love to hear him sing that way. But I can't always expect him to go all Barry Gibb on me, after all. The few seconds John did use it left me
desperately wanting to hear more.

'Natural Avenue', the title track, is a great upbeat number. The music, tempo, melody and lyrics are all fine and good, the hard-drivng boom chick a boom sounding very Cash-like. But there is a little something about the song that was lacking for me. At the very end, during the last two chorus parts, John did use his falsetto- albeit very briefly, but it was so faint due to the fade-out that I could barely hear it. Perhaps this is why I responded this way about this tune- my ears feel rather cheated.

'Summer Breeze' is a pretty, airy tune that invokes the spirit and feeling of it's title very well. This is the kind of song that one listens to while lying in a hammock and sipping one of those "little umbrella" drinks on a lazy, warm Summer day. The music is just lovely and John's soft vocals match it perfectly.

'Carry Me' was written for John's son Kristian. It is a beautiful song- without being too syrupy-sweet or overly sentimental. John manages to convey his feelings to his son in such a way that is timeless and ageless and speaks to that relationship at any stage in their lives. This is a song that a man can truly apppreciate, without any of the "chick song" factor.

'Who Could Change' is a well-done love song conjuring up images of a man on his knees, trying so hard to convey the deepest parts of his heart to the woman he loves. John's soft voice and poignant words sound pleading and urgent without being desperate or over-dramatic. Again at the end, Lodgey teases/tortures me with a tiny bit of that fab falsetto.

'Broken Dreams, Hard Road' is one that "lacked a little something" for me, but again, it's not one to turn off either. The song sounded off-balance somehow with the dramatic tempo change- that's the best way I can describe it. The orchestral arrangement and lyrics are fantastic, and John sounds great vocally. Perhaps a different melody change-up would have made all the difference.

'Piece of my Heart' will not rank very high on the rather large list of my favorite songs of John Lodge. It is my least favorite on the CD but it's not so bad that I can't listen to it. I am a bit confused about the nature of the breakup/relationship in the song and it threw the whole thing off-kilter for me. The music and John's vocals sound fine but the lyrics left me puzzling over the possible existence of a love child.

In 'Rainbow' John sometimes walks a very fine line between being lovingly sentimental or downright mushy, something his Moody mate Justin Hayward has been often accused of as well. John manages to pull it off on the side of good taste with lyrics like these: "Make my life the morning, A promise for today. Break my heart or let me in, But do it, right away." A really good song.

'Children of Rock 'n' Roll' is flavored heavily with the influences of some of John's childhood rock heroes. I wouldn't have been surprised at all to hear Buddy Holly's voice coming from my speakers. I have to confess that this song let me down- but only just a wee, tiny bit. I was so hoping John would rock me hard on this number. He almost gives me all I want- but not quite. I suppose I am just too spoiled by his earlier, classic rockers "See- Saw" and "Singer". Still I thoroughly enjoy this one.

I am being very literal here when I say that I had to save the best for last. "Say you Love Me" is the CROWN JEWEL of this Album, and quite possibly his best ballad. This gem blew me away upon the first hearing and I love it more with each new listen. I can listen to it repeatedly and never tire of it. This is possibly the best thing John has penned or sung in the last 30 years. My gosh, what an incredible piece of work this song is and it alone is well worth the price of the whole album. If I let it, 'SYLM' is well on it's way to becoming my all-time John Lodge composition- and that's saying a whole heck of a lot! This song is quite simply extraordinary on all levels. The lyrics, melody and music are all superb. The heavy orcehestration mates so well with John's vocal performance without being overwhelming at all. John's poignantly beautiful words and the incredible way he sings them touch me like no song has in a very, very long time. No, John didn't use falsetto- nor did he need to; the song is just perfect without it. His voice is at times so achingly raw and bare, and the beautiful music makes you feel this song deeply, to the bone. John REALLY needs to sing this one in concert. I could go on and on ad infinitum about this gorgeous song. Way to go John- tres magnifique!

I am so very glad I bought 'Natural Avenue' and didn't listen to all the negative reviews. Otherwise, I would have missed out on a beautiful piece of artwork from John Lodge, and that would be a huge loss to my spirit and soul. I sincerely hope this review will prompt someone to get 'Natural Avenue' and discover this often over-looked(and under-appreciated) member of The Moody Blues. John Charles Lodge is such a multi-talented singer, songwriter, and musician; he's not "just a bass player". Let your lives be enriched by his beautiful words and music. It would be a shame if you didn't.

Link http://www.mediafire.com/?ynz2zywdnlm

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